Birmingham boy among hundreds with new bike courtesy of Beaumont Children's Miracle Network

Susan Bromley/ Hometown Life

July 11. 2019

Colin Schrader might seem like any other child on a hot July afternoon, biking down a sidewalk by his Birmingham home.
And that is exactly what is so delightful to his mother, Erin, who doesn't have to run alongside him any more after the 6-year-old, along with about 125 other children, received specially adapted bicycles from Beaumont Health and the Children's Miracle Network.

“It goes fast,” Colin says with a big grin. “When it goes fast enough, it goes through the grass and you don’t need to use your feet (to stop).”

This bike is a lot more stable than his old one, which he learned to ride when he was 4, but which was frustrating to him and Mom as he continually fell. A mild form of cerebral palsy affects Colin's balance, requiring braces for his feet and physical therapy.

Children ages 2-18 who participate in physical therapy at Beaumont Health clinics are eligible for specially adapted bicycles, at an average cost of $2,500, all funded by sponsors including Children’s Miracle Network.

On June 29, Colin and more than 125 other children took possession of the bikes for which they had been fitted in May, and which are commonly adapted with high back harnesses, adaptive pedals and special tires like the “FATWHEELS” on Colin’s bike.

All of these adjustments can put a childhood pastime within reach for a child who might not otherwise ever have the experience, and the bikes serve the dual purpose of bringing happiness while also strengthening abilities both physically and mentally.

“It's incredibly rewarding and to me it brings it right back to home why I became therapist: to help children find a way to have the best life possible and have as many activities as their peers,” Debbie Adsit, supervisor for the Beaumont Center for Children’s Rehabilitation, said. “This program helps us be able to do that for these children.”

While it is rewarding to watch the children experience the joy of a bike, she also loves to see the joy of the parents and also siblings.

“When you have a baby, you have simple dreams, you think about your own childhood and what you want to give them,” she said. “When you have a child with disability, you think those experiences are taken away, but they don’t have to be.”

Colin was so excited for his bike and has been talking about it constantly for the past several weeks. Now that it has arrived, he eagerly awaits the streamers his mom has ordered for the black bike, but in the meantime, he rides all over in his driveway and on the sidewalks by home while Mom helps his 3-year-old sister Kate ride a trike.

“When he’s happy, I’m happy,” Erin Schrader says simply. “I stick close by, but he is much more stable… I definitely think he is more confident.”

Colin has a small abrasion below his right eye, a result of falling a few days ago after making a sharp turn while going a little too fast, but he is unfazed.

“I still like my bike, even if I got hurt once, it won’t stop me from riding it more,” he said.

Moments later, Colin speeds off down the sidewalk, just a boy on his bike.

After receiving a FATWHEEL bike from Beaumont, Colin Schrader is ready for a summer of safe fun in his Birmingham neighborhood
John Heider/ Hometown Life

Contact Susan Bromley at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter @SusanBromley10.

FATWHEELS Adaptive Bikes for Kids with Special Needs
Children and adults with disabilities can bolt these to various bicycles to make riding a bike much easier

By Jenny Kalish / Match 21, 2016
Detroit Metro Parent Magazine

For 22-year-old Geordi Berlingieri of Plymouth, learning to ride a bike didn’t come naturally growing up. Geordi suffers from an intellectual disability that makes it difficult for him to keep his balance on a bicycle.

“We had gone to physical therapy, occupational therapy, bike-riding clinics and so on, and he just couldn’t ride,” recalls Geordi’s mom, Colleen Berlingieri. “So we stumbled upon this product on the internet,

FATWHEELS, which are kind of like regular training wheels on steroids. ”FATWHEELS come in three sizes: Small, Large and Adult. They’re incredibly sturdy and can be affixed to various size bicycles. Not only did FATWHEELS help Geordi learn to ride at age 10 - he was able to ride successfully on his very first try.

"We were tickled pink", Colleen says. "We couldn't believe that we just put them on and away he went.

Realizing the potential FATWHEELS could have in the special needs and physical therapy communities, Colleen later purchases FATWHEELS with her husband, Tony in 2013 from the company's founder in North Carolina (it first debuted in 1997). The family, which also includes son Jacob, 11, hasn’t looked back.

Most recently, they’ve been working with parents/caregivers, hospitals, outpatient clinics and school progrmas country wide to get FATWHEELS to children and adults who need them. They've also sponsored a group of advanced engineering students at the University of Michigan to develop a new "quick disconnect" version of FATWHEELS Adult model.

It’s had a big impact on Geordi’s life too. He doesn’t have a driver’s license, so FATWHEELS help him independently get around his community.“

I know it’s just bike-riding, but it's more than that," Colleen says, "For a child, riding your bike around the neighborhood, I mean that's a rite of passage, that's inclusion.

The adaptive training wheels are not ordinary training wheels available in the market. On the contrary, these devices are designed to “adapt” to riders as they grow up. With easy-to-follow and straightforward instruction, you can replace the existing set of brackets with a more extensive set when purchasing a new bigger bicycle. There is no need to spend lots of money on an expensive adaptive bike anymore.

There are several bicycle models for people with disabilities on the market, but, unfortunately, most of them are too pricy, and few parents can even afford them. The adaptive training wheels have emerged as a budget solution for them. With less than one-third of the cost of purchasing the adaptive bike, you can have a regular bike with adaptive training wheels installed for your unique needs kid.

As you might know, children with autism usually suffer from gross motor and sensory processing problems, which can discourage cycling in some autistic kids. According to the research conducted by the University of Michigan, the report has shown that less than 20% of autistic children and only 10 % of down syndrome kids can ride. For more information on toddler bikes with training wheels, click here to read.

Therapy biking for Autism

Autism is a biologically determined behavioral disorder in the area of relationship, communication, and behavior. Also, autism is characterized by restricted and repetitive interests and recurrent sensory disturbance. According to the guideline for autism published in 2011, the treatment of choice must be behavioral, intensive, early, and curricular, with rigorously individualized programming that includes table learning and in a natural environment.

Generally, most kids with autism are suffering from great difficulties in relationships and communication. They cannot actively participate in social life, and they sometimes struggle to get involved in group activities. Furthermore, children with autism can be disturbed by loud noise or color.

More importantly, they have no sense of danger, often have not developed a functional verbal language, and the frustration of not being understood, together with the boredom of empty free time. Finally, it causes many behavior problems.

Biking enhances the strengths of a kid with autism, above all the physical strength and the preference for simple and repetitive individual activities, without requiring sophisticated relational and communicative skills. Besides, the bicycle’s role is not only of aggregation for cycle-cultural excursions or environmental protection but it can also be used for relevant and beneficial activities for kids with autism.

Biking activity can thus be a valuable experience. Kids can generalize in a natural environment some learning acquired in the context of therapies, such as personal autonomy, social skills, orientation in space, and time. Finally, physical activity also allows kids to keep their bodies in shape and to channel in a practical and socially acceptable, and even appreciable way that physical energy could otherwise originate aggressive behaviors.

Bike riding lesson for special needs kids with Autism 

Teaching specific needs autistic kids to ride a bicycle could be very challenging to accomplish. The challenges are likely to include balancing difficulty, lack of determination of how to pedal, inability to coordinate steering and to pedal, inability to use the brake, lack of safety awareness, possibly being distracted by surroundings, and many more!

The bike lesson aims to provide autistic kids with an opportunity for socializing and integration. It also promotes the development/enhancement of logical-cognitive skills with cycling practices, encourages the acquisition of manual skills and road safety rules, and activates networking among children.

Therefore, training wheels are used as the primary tool to help autistic kids get quick lessons in riding a bicycle. By installing adaptive training wheels to a regular bike, parents don’t need to hold on to the seat while their kids are pedaling a bike. With assisted adaptive training wheels, your kid will gradually learn how to pedal, steer, and stop it. However, the lesson may take longer than usual as most autistic kids tend to rely more on the internal proprioceptive sense than on visual input from the environment.

To encourage autistic kids to gain a sense of balance, people use a systematic approach to help autistic children on the spectrum. The core value of the strategy focuses more on mastering individual learning steps than the whole riding procedure. Since the autistic brain tends to focus on proprioceptive sense than the surrounding input, it is an excellent idea to let those kids learn each step such as pedaling. To do so, parents can attach adaptive training wheels and let kids focus on pedaling while staying close to the bike. Keep monitoring until kids show signs of improvement.

>>>find more useful information about a complete guide on cycling with children

Big adaptive training wheels for autistic special need

Regular training wheels don’t work well with autistic kids as they tend to tip easily, making it difficult for autistic children to steer and pedal the bike. With a sensory processing problem, autistic children have many difficulties in controlling their balance and coordination. The big adaptive training wheels are invented to do this job. The most popular adaptive training wheels maker on the market is FATWHEELS.

Inspired by their son, who is suffering from a rare genetic disorder called Kleefstra syndrome, Colleen and Tony Berlingieri have purchased and marketed FATWHEELS brand for kids with special needs. FATWHEELS markets and sells their product online only.

The “FATWHEELS” has claimed that their adaptive training wheels are capable of growing with your kids using the special upgrade bracket. Just replace a new set of brackets and attach them to your old traditional bike.

Typically, there are 4 types of FATWHEELS kits available on the market: small kit, small (HD) kit, large kit, and adult kit. These 4 types of packages accommodate riders of different age groups, weights, and heights. The small kit is designed for children with a height of around 34-56 inches and 150 lbs. of weight while the small (HD) kit is suitable for children with up to 250 lbs. The large kit is destined for youth with a height between 56-62 inches and up to 150 lbs. of weight. Finally, the adult kit will be used for an adult rider with a height between 56-62 inches and up to 250 lbs. of weight

Myth and Fact of FATWHEELS adaptive training wheels

Myth: FATWHEELS is not compatible with a multi-speed bike with a derailleur.

Fact: FATWHEELS is designed to work with a multi-speed bike with derailleur and single-speed bike.

Myth: FATWHEELS works fine on a bike with active rear suspension.

Fact: FATWHEELS is not compatible with a bike with active rear suspension.

Myth: All FATWHEELS models can be used on a bike with quick-release hubs.

Fact: Only small (HD) and adult kits are compatible with a bike with quick-release hubs.

Myth: FATWHEELS is compatible with special bikes such as folding bikes, tandem bikes, and e-bike.

Fact: FATWHEELS is not compatible with the special bikes mentioned above.

The Bottom Line

Learning how to ride may be a difficult task to accomplish for many children with autism and their parents. With the adaptive training wheels, autistic children will be able to steer, pedal, and stop their bikes without fear of falling. Parents also enjoy spending time with their kids more. However, it is difficult to put everything into practice, especially for autistic kids. There will be critical moments when all techniques you have read don’t work at all. Do not give up and, instead, try to take inspiration from this indication. You will find the best way to spend time pleasantly with your kids even though it means devoting all your efforts. Trust me. It’s worth waiting.